MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is a synthetic, psychoactive drug that is chemically similar to the stimulant methamphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline. MDMA produces feelings of increased energy, euphoria, emotional warmth, and distortions in time, perception, and tactile experiences. The origin of the drug MDMA was patented in 1913 (patent #274.350) by the German chemical company Merck supposedly to be sold as a diet pill (the patent does not mention any intended use), the company decided against marketing the drug and had nothing more to do with it. The US army experimented with MDMA in 1953, possibly as truth serum. They have not revealed their reasons.
MDMA is taken orally, usually as a capsule or tablet. Ecstasy is nearly always swallowed as a tablet or capsule. However, ecstasy is occasionally snorted, smoked or injected. It was initially popular among Caucasian adolescents and young adults in the nightclub scene or at weekend-long dance parties known as raves. More recently, the profile of the typical MDMA user has changed, with the drug now affecting a broader range of ethnic groups. MDMA is also popular among urban gay males—some report using MDMA as part of a multiple-drug experience that includes marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, ketamine, sildenafil (Viagra), and other legal and illegal substances. MDMA has the full chemical name of '3,4 Methylene-dioxy-N-methyl amphetamine' or 'Methylenedioxymethamphetamine'. The 3,4 indicates the way in which the components of the molecule are joined together, as it is possible to produce an isomer, which has all the same components but is joined differently. Although it is derived from organic material, MDMA itself does not occur in nature, and must be created in a complex laboratory process. There are various popular street names for MDMA such as Ecstasy, E, Adam, X and Empathy.
Ecstasy is small, round and has a chalky texture. They come in all colors and shapes and some have stamps on the front of them, which is used to name the pill. The thickness of the pill varies also. There are single, double, and triple stack pills and the thickness doesn't necessarily determine the quality of the pill. Some break very easily and others are hard. Occasionally, ecstasy may come as a capsule, which can be yellow, pink or clear and very rarely as powder.
MDMA exerts its primary effects in the brain on neurons that use the chemical (or neurotransmitter) serotonin to communicate with other neurons. The serotonin system plays an important role in regulating mood, aggression, sexual activity, sleep, and sensitivity to pain. MDMA binds to the serotonin transporter, which is responsible for removing serotonin from the synapse (or space between adjacent neurons) to terminate the signal between neurons; thus MDMA increases and prolongs the serotonin signal. MDMA also enters the serotonergic neurons via the transporter (because MDMA resembles serotonin in chemical structure) where it causes excessive release of serotonin from the neurons. MDMA has similar effects on another neurotransmitter—norepinephrine, which can cause increases in heart rate and blood pressure. MDMA also releases dopamine, but to a much lesser extent.
MDMA can produce confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, and severe anxiety. These problems can occur soon after taking the drug or, sometimes, even days or weeks after taking MDMA. In addition, chronic users of MDMA perform more poorly than nonusers on certain types of cognitive or memory tasks, although some of these effects may be due to the use of other drugs in combination with MDMA. Research in animals indicates that MDMA can be harmful to the brain. One study in nonhuman primates showed that exposure to MDMA for only 4 days caused damage to serotonin nerve terminals that was still evident 6 to 7 years later. Although similar neurotoxicity has not been shown definitively in humans, the wealth of animal research...